On the Radar: NextPlane

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1 On the Radar: NextPlane Unified communications federation delivered via the cloud Reference Code: IT Publication Date: 24 Sep 2013 Author: Saurabh Sharma SUMMARY Catalyst NextPlane UC Exchange is a cloud-based unified communications (UC)-to-UC and UC-to-social federation service that enables secure and realtime communications across disparate UC and social networking platforms, both within and between organizations. The UC federation service eases the development of collaborative business communities exploiting realtime, flexible, and context-aware communications to deliver benefits, such as faster decision-making, more effective collaboration with partners and customers, and more efficient resource utilization. Key messages NextPlane UC Exchange federates presence, instant messaging, multi-user chat, and voice and video calls across different enterprise UC and consumer messaging platforms. The cloud-based UC federation service is available on an annual subscription basis. Federation with public and enterprise social networking platforms such as Yammer, Chatter, and Twitter is also supported. The UC Exchange management portal provides reports and analytics that help to understand user behavior and federation adoption trends. The UC federation service supports a wide range of secure communications standards and protocols, and enables enforcement of policies controlling the types of traffic allowed across different federated domains. Ovum view Given NextPlane's positioning in the market, Ovum expects sustained growth in the adoption of the UC Exchange federation service, with a significant proportion of new revenues coming from the small- and medium-sized enterprise (SME) segment. In the near term, NextPlane's continued focus on building partnerships with major UC vendors is expected to result in significant growth in the adoption of this service. Ovum believes that NextPlane should focus on expanding the range of unified Ovum. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited Page 1

2 communications-as-a-service (UCaaS) solutions supported by UC Exchange to further strengthen its competitive positioning. RECOMMENDATIONS FOR ENTERPRISES Why put NextPlane on your radar? Interoperability is not a common virtue of UC solutions, and IT often struggles to extend the use of UC solutions beyond "nice-to-have" functionality enabling better communication and collaboration within the enterprise via intra-domain federation. Business partners and customers often use different UC solutions, and federation between UC platforms following disparate standards and protocols is difficult to achieve in a time-efficient and cost-effective manner. While some UC platforms support federation with a few select UC and social platforms, their limitations in enabling inter-domain federation across a wider range of UC platforms cannot be ignored. Similarly, session managers offered by UC vendors such as Cisco and Avaya cannot cater for all the inter-domain UC federation requirements. It is therefore important that organizations follow a holistic approach to inter-domain and inter-vendor UC interoperability that provides the requisite data security and privacy, simplifies infrastructure administration and maintenance, and supports federation across a wide range of UC and social platforms. NextPlane UC Exchange fits the bill for such requirements. NextPlane UC Exchange is a cloud-based UC-to-UC and UC-to-social federation service. It federates presence, instant messaging, multi-user chat, and voice and video (limited to desktop video) calls across different UC platforms. UC platforms supported by this federation service include Microsoft Lync and Office Communications Server (OCS); Cisco Jabber, WebEx Messenger, and Cisco Unified Presence Server (CUPS); Siemens Enterprise Communications OpenScape, IBM Sametime, Google Apps, ezuce Open UC, and Isode M-link. NextPlane hosts all the key components of UC Exchange, including the administration, federation, and reporting servers. NextPlane UC Exchange offers a searchable directory service which organizations can use to find and connect with their "federation-ready" partners. UC Exchange allows authorized users to search for desired personnel in partner organizations directly from their UC clients without the need for any client-side software installation or configuration. The UC Exchange management portal provides reports and analytics related to traffic volume, number of users, and messages exchanged. This information can be used to understand user behavior and federation adoption trends. NextPlane UC Exchange lets customers enforce policies controlling the type of traffic (instant message, presence, voice, and video) allowed across different federated domains. Policies related to communication modes supported for specific users can also be configured. The NextPlane UC Exchange federation service supports a wide range of secure communications standards and protocols, including secure session initiation protocol (SIP), secure extensible messaging and presence protocol (XMPP), XMPP server dial-back protocol, and XMPP over transport layer security (TLS). Support for XMPP server dial-back and TLS protocols ensures authentication and encryption of communications between the NextPlane UC Exchange federation service and XMPP servers. The XMPP server dial-back protocol provides protection against address spoofing attacks on Ovum. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited Page 2

3 the XMPP network. Another noteworthy feature of NextPlane UC Exchange is the support for federation across multiple SIP and XMPP domains. NextPlane UC Exchange allows organizations to exploit the capabilities of their UC and social networking platforms to achieve more efficient resource utilization, faster time-to-value, and more effective collaboration with business partners and customers. HIGHLIGHTS Background NextPlane was founded in Sunnyvale, California, in NextPlane Federation Server, the first offering of the company, initially allowed federation of instant messaging and presence across UC platforms offered by Microsoft, IBM, and Cisco. In 2010, NextPlane introduced UC Federation Cloud, a SaaS-based UC federation solution. In November 2010, NextPlane announced support for voice calls between Microsoft OCS and Google Apps via NextPlane Federation Server and NextPlane Federation Cloud. Given the preference of customers for cloud-based UC federation solutions over the proposition of maintaining on-premise gateways, NextPlane Federation Server was discontinued in All existing customers of NextPlane Federation Server migrated to NextPlane Federation Cloud, which later evolved into NextPlane UC Exchange. In July 2012, the company announced the addition of XMPP group chat federation to its cloud-based UC federation service. In December 2012, NextPlane announced the availability of federation between UC platforms and public and enterprise social networking platforms such as Twitter, Chatter, and Yammer. A few months later, the UC Exchange service was extended to provide support for federation with consumer instant messaging platforms such as Skype and Yahoo. In July 2013, Siemens Enterprise Communications joined the NextPlane UC federation service, allowing OpenScape UC platform customers to connect with UC platforms offered by Microsoft, Cisco, IBM, Google, Isode, and ezuce. Current position NextPlane UC Exchange is offered via two channels: direct sales and business partners. Key partners include UC vendors, such as Microsoft, Cisco, and Siemens Enterprise Communications. NextPlane has around 130 large enterprises as clients, including Fortune Global 1000 companies such as GM, HP, Vodafone, Shell, IBM, Cisco, Accenture, Group M, Coles Supermarkets, and Delphi. NextPlane has grown its business both in terms of customer base and in terms of revenue, and currently has customers across several vertical industries, including financial services, energy, healthcare, communications & media, manufacturing, construction, and education. Currently, NextPlane UC Exchange connects over 500 unique corporate domains to enable realtime communications between more than 300,000 users per month. NextPlane claims that its UC federation service has seen good adoption in North America, Europe, and Asia-Pacific with the customer base doubling during each of the last couple of years. NextPlane is Ovum. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited Page 3

4 expected to partner with other key UC platform vendors, UC resellers, and service providers to further expand its customer base. The direct sales channel is expected to account for a major part of the revenue growth in the near term with a significant proportion of new revenues coming from the SME segment. Currently, NextPlane UC Exchange supports cloud services based on UC platforms offered by Microsoft, Cisco, and IBM. This includes support for services provided by UC vendors themselves (for example, Microsoft Office 365, Cisco WebEx Messenger, and Google Apps) and those provided via partners (for example, Cisco Hosted Collaboration Solutions). Ovum believes that NextPlane should focus on expanding the range of UCaaS solutions supported by UC Exchange, as this is a rapidly growing segment in the UC market and the strategic and operational aspects of UC Exchange align well with those of cloud-based UC solutions. DATA SHEET Key facts Table 1: Data sheet Product name NextPlane UC Exchange Product classification UC federation service Version number Release date October 2012 Industries covered All vertical industries Geographies covered Americas, Europe, Middle-East and Africa, and Asia-Pacific Relevant company sizes Large enterprises and small & medium-sized enterprises Licensing options Subscription on per-user basis. Varies with features and functionality, and the number of UC and social networking platforms supported URL ml Routes to market Direct sales and with partners Company headquarters Sunnyvale, California Number of employees 20 Source: Ovum APPENDIX "On the Radar" "On the Radar" is part of Ovum's series of research notes that highlights up-and-coming vendors that bring innovative ideas, products, or business models to their markets. Although "On the Radar" vendors are not always ready for prime time, they bear watching for their impact on markets and could be suitable for certain enterprise and public sector IT organizations. Further reading Achieving the True Business Value of Communications-Enabled Business Processes, IT (January 2013) Ovum. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited Page 4

5 2013 Trends to Watch: SOA and Integration, IT (September 2012) Author Disclaimer Saurabh Sharma, Senior Analyst, Software IT Solutions All Rights Reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior permission of the publisher, Ovum (an Informa business). The facts of this report are believed to be correct at the time of publication but cannot be guaranteed. Please note that the findings, conclusions, and recommendations that Ovum delivers will be based on information gathered in good faith from both primary and secondary sources, whose accuracy we are not always in a position to guarantee. As such, Ovum can accept no liability whatever for actions taken based on any information that may subsequently prove to be incorrect. Ovum. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited Page 5

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